I-RISE Program Focuses on Children's Literacy
Winston-Salem State University assistant professor Kimberly Pemberton is on a mission: to raise the literacy skills of K-5 students living in low-income neighborhoods. Her project, the Initiative of Reading Improvement for Students Everywhere (I-RISE) does not only that, but also provides elementary education students from Winston-Salem State University the opportunity to hone their teaching skills.
“Literacy is the ticket to life," Pemberton, who teaches in the university’s education program, said. "We read for pleasure, for information, to make sure we’re giving our children the right medication. So our children suffer when they don’t have strong literacy skills.”
The I-RISE Literacy Academy was founded three years ago, thanks to a three-year, $22,000 Oaks Foundation grant. Since then, Pemberton and her students have worked with more than 50 children in Winston-Salem at Forest Park Elementary School, Easton Elementary School, The Oaks at 10th Street Housing Office, the Stoney Glen Apartments Community Center, and this past spring semester at the Piedmont Park Community Center.
The Academy has three specific goals: to encourage reading and improve the literacy skills of developing readers in the areas of word recognition, spelling, fluency, and comprehension; to empower parents to become partners and assist with the literacy development of their child or children; and to prepare pre-service teachers for literacy instruction and to give them experience collaborating with parents.
According to the pre-clinical Elementary and Special Education majors in Pemberton’s RED 4312: Reading Assessment and Remediation course, the program is working according to plan.
“I had a great experience,” said Bria Foster, an elementary education major from Charlotte, N.C., “I gained great companionship with my tutee, giving her advice for school behaviors and being a friend to her. I also gained a greater understanding about her community and found ways of helping her, outside of tutoring services.”
Sharika Grooms, a special education major from Winston-Salem, N.C., agrees.
“At first, I was very nervous about working in this program because I had never tutored a child within the community before,” said Grooms. “After a few weeks of working with my tutee at the Piedmont Park Center, I felt proud of myself because I taught my tutee and she actually learned something from me.”
Grooms is adamant in her belief that programs like I-RISE give students the skills they need to succeed in school but also the confidence to succeed in life.
“I believe that every child should be able to learn and succeed not only in school, but in everything they do,” she said.